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  • Writer's pictureChica Jo

Turning Ugliness Into Beauty

Updated: Jun 15, 2021

Keep Reading To Find Out What This Is

It’s been an interesting few weeks since my underwater dance with a humpback whale (plus escape from big momma tiger shark) and Paul’s rescue of a tangled humpback whale. For a while, regular old life seemed so darn easy and new healthy habits automatic. Not much of day-to-day life really rattled me after such intense, and life-threatening experiences. But I’ve been feeling that anxious, self-focused, mini-me creeping back in. How can I be griping at the whale-saving man for getting macha chili-oil all over the galley counter and not cleaning it up (again)? Why did I just burst-curse indignantly to myself at the guy who took up two parking spaces at noon on a triple-digit day and the young grocery bagger who crushed my cilantro? Why am I letting myself feel so sleeplessly hurt when my grown son doesn’t read these blog posts that, if I’m writing for any single person, would be him? (Ha! If you’re reading this, kiddo, there’s some mom martyrdom for you!) Why did I just parenthetically guilt my son even though I rationally know better (He’s probably not going to read this . . . but still)? I’m supposed to be all ‘woke’ now and above such frivolous worries, right? Shouldn’t I now just automatically BE in a state of grace all the time? Well. Having the dancing whale memory to remind me to check in with my relationship with the present moment does help. But not directly. What it does mostly is just make me aware of how ever-changing my state of mind is and how often I am impatient, self-righteous, judgmental, and on the edge of falling back into old, asleep habits. Dammit. The only way out, for me, is to DO something counter to my own ugliness and ugliness at large. Something that requires me to practice the very things I struggle to be: patient, self-less, compassionate, deeply truthful, and graceful. Something . . . beautiful.

This Time With Color . . . keep reading . . .

Remember the awful 369 feet of nylon rope and gillnet that ensnared Paul’s humpback like a mummy? That net was held suspended in the water column by 66 donut shaped foam floats. Before we disposed of the net and line (Thank you Villa Del Palmar at the Islands for taking it off our hands . . . but, yes, I do still judge your desert golf course . . . see, there I go even now!) we painstakingly searched for and cut free all those life-taking foam rounds. I brushed off most of the barnacles that had rubbed off the whale and onto the floats and I faced the horrible pile of them. How could I make beauty out of such ugliness? I would often close my eyes and try to recall every inch and movement of my dancing humpback. (I still do as I’m afraid it will fade like the image of my mom laughing has.) I could see the bumpy, almost black, other-worldly blue of the whale’s skin. I could recall the surprising amount of bright white, almost lacy filigree that edged his long, elegant flippers. I could remember the surprising number of barnacles and other life attached to the giant gyrating mammal . . . so many that when he was close enough to touch it was like his skin was a night sky dotted with jeweled constellations. I could recall the striping of his throat pleats, ready to expand with a living-room’s worth of water and krill. I could remember the perfect black sphere of his eye looking at what felt like all my secrets.

So, I got out my paints and brushes and started painting those ugly floats to reflect a humpback’s surface beauty and deeper grace. It took me a few weeks of detailed afternoon work on a rocking boat. I had to salt and rub the water out of each float before applying paint. Then I had to layer and layer the paint to even begin to do whales any justice. Each brush stroke was done with love and patience and with a smile, thinking how someone else would enjoy this found-object sculpture. I completed it by stringing up all 66 floats on part of the awful, ensnaring rope that bound Paul’s whale’s mouth. I worked hard and fought nausea and was gratefully present for most every moment of it. Now, it’s time for me to gift the hanging sculpture to someone whom I hope will enjoy it for a time before re-gifting it to someone else. Fellow sailor, art appreciator and San Carlos resident, Becky Mulkey Burr and her talented architect hubby, Bob are now in possession of the sculpture! (See photo at bottom . . . and Thanks Becki!)

So, that’s all know to do with my darn ugly self. That and going outside to discover who is crawling, swimming, or flying around. Not likely to be a dancing whale or one in need of rescue but perhaps a spider, some weird seaweed, or an eel. "Ick" you say? I say, "Wake up"! All forms of life are sacred and full of wonder . . . if we ourselves are seeing correctly.

It's here in San Carlos waiting for you . . . Triplefin is the third boat from the far left, by the way.

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